So This Is Christmas

One of the wonders of Christmas is its light. In the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas Day comes just a few days after the winter solstice, the “bleak midwinter,” the longest night of the year. We should be depressed by the darkness. Instead we revel in it because of the glorious light all around—on trees, on houses, in stores and public places. We light candles and stoke fireplaces so we can enjoy their warmth and light.

When it’s the darkest, light is a gift from the one who created it. As recorded in Scripture, these are the first words God spoke: “Let there be light.” By that simple yet all-powerful command enough light came to brighten and give life to our otherwise dark and empty planet.

Since that first day of creation, darkness has remained, not only in the world but also in the human heart. When the prophet Isaiah described the people as “walking in darkness,” he didn’t mean they were physically in the dark. They were spiritually bleak and without hope.

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Light Always Shines Bright When It's Dark

 

For reasons both comforting and curious, the loneliest, darkest, and coldest time of the year plays host to Christmas. The shortest day of the year is around Christmas making it the physically darkest holiday, next to New Year’s, on the calendar. So, the time of year when we are supposedly the most generous is also the time of year where we are fighting depression and good old fashioned darkness.

 

Yet, that’s when the light truly shines.

 

The current news cycle seems very dark and while I can go on various rabbit trails lamenting a variety of things, I am reminded that this time of year always gets dark. Lights on trees and holiday lights on houses, lining streets, or in the malls announce that something is different. Lights that flash and lights that look like impromptu runways accompany lights that spell out encouraging words and lights that point the way to shopping, restaurants, or special events. All of these lights come when the sun starts to set earlier in the afternoon.

 

So, yes, the world is dark. At this time of  year, it’s always darker.

 

But, that’s part of the meaning behind ideas like generosity, grace, and sacrificial love. “It’s a Wonderful Life,” isn’t about preserving a mobile, middle class life, but it’s about being attentive to the life we already have. What would it be like to bring light in to the darker parts of our world? Frankly, it’s not that difficult to ponder. We simply need to recall that generosity doesn’t go out of style and can be done all year long. Grace never gets old and everyone needs it. Sacrificial love changes everything and is always worth the effort.

 

As the days get shorter and the darkness extends in to our afternoons, lights truly do get noticed and truly do make a difference.  I’ll list a few quotes so  you just don’t take my word for it:

 

From William Shakespeare—

 

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

 

From Vincent Van Gogh—

 

“Those who love much, do much and accomplish much, and whatever is done with love is done well.... Love is the best and noblest thing in the human heart, especially when it is tested by life as gold is tested by fire. Happy is he who has loved much, and although he may have wavered and doubted, he has kept that divine spark alive and returned to what was in the beginning and ever shall be. 

Do We Live in a Dark World?

People who see the world as “dark” aren’t held in high regard. They are called curmudgeons, pessimists, even villains.

By contract, people who see the world in a positive light are considered optimistic. They’re the good guys.

Donald Trump’s speech at the close of the Republican National Convention was castigated by the opposition and the press as being “dark.” President Obama was so bothered by its tone that he felt compelled to reply the next day, “This idea that America is somehow on the verge of collapse—this vision of violence and chaos everywhere—doesn’t really jibe with the experience of most people.”

Taking politics out of this discussion (I know, that’s nearly impossible), this sunny statement by the president against the negative images conjured by Trump begs an important question, one that doesn’t concern only our time, but all of time, the way it’s always been, at least since the fall.

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Light

I’ve been intrigued by light lately.

The kind that bridges black to dim,

and dim to dawn.

Decorating the heights

and beckoning life from that which is deep,

Awakening horizons and arising heat.

I’ve been intrigued by lightly lately

As in the flame of a candle,

The fierceness of its glory,

The passion of its shadow,

The fragility of its strength.

I’ve been intrigued by light lately and God being called, “the Father of lights, with whom there is no

variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

Harvesters of Light

Jesus' words to his followers about us being the "light of the world", seems especially appropriate this time of year. It's the time of year when, up here, the light drops lower into the sky and the shadows are long. Leaves have blown away and naked branches shake. Here in raincity we've the added beauty of clouds creating interplays of light and shadow in an infinite array of patterns. It's a remarkable time of year, a time when darkness and light seem to be at war.

Thankfully, we live with the confidence that in just a few short weeks the darkness, which has seemingly been getting the upper hand, will once again enter its annual season of defeat as light inevitably triumphs. For some of us, the season is the most beautiful of all, not because we like the darkness so much, but because the darkness makes the little shards of light all the more poignant and powerful. A single candle in my home office at 6:00PM in May? Meaningless. On November 17th? Priceless.

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